There are now well-established examples of carriers and pores which facilitate the transfer of ions across thin lipid membranes. In the absence of such agents, lipid bilayer membranes are extremely impermeable to the common inorganic ions. Thus, the conductance of a pure lecithin + decane or glyceryl mono-oleate + decane membrane in M/10 NaCl is less than10−9Ω −1 cm−2. However, on the addition of small lipid-soluble molecules such as valinomycin, or surface-active polypeptides such as gramicidin A, the conductance may become so high (> 10−1 ω−l cm−2) that the resistance of the membrane merges into that of the aqueous phase. This review is concerned with the extent to which we now understand how these added substances transfer ions across lipid membranes. Attention has been concentrated on the simpler systems, i.e. the lipid-soluble ions, the 1–1 carriets, a simple pore and, with some loss of simplicity, a substance which prodeces interacting pores. Only molecules of known primary structure are discussed.